Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Until the flooding of Glen Canyon formed Lake Powell, this area was one of the most remote regions in the contiguous 48 states. However, since the construction of Glen Canyon Dam at a spot where the canyon of the Colorado River was less than a third of a mile wide, this remote and rugged landscape has become one of the country's most popular national recreation areas. Today, the lake and much of the surrounding land is designated the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and attracts around two million visitors each year. The otherworldly setting amid the slickrock canyons of northern Arizona and southern Utah is a tapestry of colors, the blues and greens of the lake contrasting with the reds and oranges of the surrounding sandstone cliffs. This interplay of colors and vast desert landscapes easily makes Lake Powell the most beautiful of Arizona's many reservoirs.
Built to provide water for the desert communities of the Southwest and West, Glen Canyon Dam stands 710 feet above the bedrock and contains almost 5 million cubic yards of concrete. The dam also provides hydroelectric power, and deep within its massive wall of concrete are huge power turbines. Although most Lake Powell visitors are more interested in water-skiing and powerboating than they are in drinking water and power production, there would be no lake without the dam, so any visit to this area ought to start at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center (tel. 928/608-6404), which is located beside the dam on U.S. 89 just north of Page. Here you can tour the dam and learn about its construction. Between mid-May and mid-September, the visitor center is open daily from 8am to 6pm; November to February, it's open daily 8:30am to 4:30pm; other months, it's open daily 8am to 5pm (it's closed New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas).
More than 500 feet deep in some places, and bounded by nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline, Lake Powell is a maze of convoluted canyons where rock walls often rise hundreds of feet straight out of the water. In places, the long, winding canyons are so narrow there isn't even room to turn a motorboat around. The only way to truly appreciate this lake is from a boat, whether a houseboat, a runabout, or a sea kayak. Water-skiing, riding personal watercrafts, and fishing have long been the most popular on-water activities, and consequently, you'll be hard-pressed to find a quiet corner of the lake if you happen to be a solitude-seeking sea kayaker. However, with so many miles of shoreline, you're bound to find someplace to get away from it all. Your best bet for solitude is to head up-lake from Wahweap Marina. This will get you away from the crowds and into some of the narrower reaches of the lake.
In addition to the Carl Hayden Visitor Center mentioned above, there's the Bullfrog Visitor Center, in Bullfrog, Utah (tel. 435/684-7423). It's open intermittently from May to early October; call for hours.
So, What's with the Bathtub Ring? -- You'll notice that the red-rock cliff walls above the waters of Lake Powell are no longer red but are instead coated with what looks like a layer of white soap scum. Those are calcium carbonate deposits left on the rock after more than a decade of drought that, at its worst, left the lake level more than 130 feet below what is called "full pool" (when the reservoir is full). Currently, the lake level is down around 66 feet.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Rainbow Bridge, the world's largest natural bridge and one of the most spectacular sights in the Southwest, rises from the bedrock of a narrow canyon roughly 40 miles up the lake from Wahweap Marina and Glen Canyon Dam. This massive natural arch of sandstone stands 290 feet high and spans 275 feet and has been preserved in Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Carved by wind and water over the ages, Rainbow Bridge is an awesome reminder of the powers of erosion that have sculpted this entire region into the spectacle it is today.
Rainbow Bridge is accessible only by boat or by way of a 14-mile-long hiking trail, so, going by boat is by far the more popular way to visit this natural attraction. Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas (tel. 888/896-3829 or 928/645-2433; www.lakepowell.com) offers 6-hour tours ($113 for adults, $84 for children) that not only get you to Rainbow Bridge in comfort, but also cruise through some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. Tours include a box lunch and a bit more exploring after visiting Rainbow Bridge. Currently, because the lake's water level is so low from years of drought, the boat must stop more than a half-mile from Rainbow Bridge, so if you aren't able to walk this distance, you won't even be able to see the sandstone arch.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument (tel. 928/608-6200; www.nps.gov/rabr) is administered by Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. For information on hiking to Rainbow Bridge, contact the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department, P.O. Box 2520, Window Rock, AZ 86515 (tel. 928/871-6647; www.navajonationparks.org). The hike to Rainbow Bridge is about 25 miles round-trip and should be done as an overnight backpacking trip. It requires a Navajo Nation hiking permit ($5 per day) and a camping permit ($5 per night), which are available through the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department, at the Cameron Visitor Center (tel. 928/679-2303), in the community of Cameron near the turnoff for the Grand Canyon, and at the Antelope Canyon Tribal Park Office (tel. 928/698-2808), 3 miles south of Page on Navajo Rte. 20 (beside the LeChee Chapter House).
If you've spent any time in Arizona, chances are you've noticed photos of a narrow sandstone canyon only a few feet wide. The pinkish-orange walls of the canyon seem to glow with an inner light, and beams of sunlight slice the darkness of the deep slot canyon. Sound familiar? If you've seen this, you were probably looking at a photo of Antelope Canyon (sometimes called Corkscrew Canyon). Located 2 1/2 miles southeast of Page off Ariz. 98 (at milepost 299), this photogenic canyon comprises the Antelope Canyon/Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park (tel. 928/698-2808; www.navajonationparks.org/htm/antelopecanyon.htm), which is on the Navajo Nation and is divided into upper and lower canyons. The entry fee is $6, and children 7 and under enter free. March through October, Antelope Canyon is open daily from 8am to 5pm; November through February, hours vary and closures are common.
There are currently two options for visiting Antelope Canyon. You can join a tour that leaves from Page, or you can drive out to the slot canyon yourself. Either way, you'll have to pay a guide. The most convenient and reliable way is to take one of the 1 1/2-hour tours that leave from Page. Try Antelope Canyon Tours, 22 S. Lake Powell Blvd. (tel. 866/645-9102 or 928/645-9102; www.antelopecanyon.com), which operates tours to Upper Antelope Canyon and charges $32 for adults, $20 for children 8 to 12, and $14 for children 6 to 7. Photographic tours cost $50, $35 for children 8 to 12, and $29 for children 3 to 7. If you don't want to deal with crowds of tourists ogling the rocks and snapping pictures with their point-and-shoots, I recommend heading out with Overland Canyon Tours, 48 S. Lake Powell Blvd. (tel. 928/608-4072; www.overlandcanyontours.com), to nearby Canyon X, which is much less visited than Antelope Canyon and is a good choice for serious photographers who want to avoid the crowds. One other option for avoiding the crowds is to book a tour with Slot Canyon Hummer Adventures, 12 N. Lake Powell Blvd. (tel. 928/645-2266; www.slotcanyonhummeradventures.com), which leads tours to several other little-visited area slot canyons. A 2 1/2-hour tour is $99 and a 5-hour tour is $159.
Alternatively, at both the upper and lower canyons, you'll find Navajo guides collecting park entry fees and fees for guide services. At Lower Antelope Canyon, these guides charge $20 ($12 for children ages 6-12). At Upper Antelope Canyon, guides charge $25 ($10 for children ages 5-11). Upper Antelope Canyon is a short drive up a sandy streambed from the highway, while Lower Antelope Canyon is a short walk from the parking area just off the highway. You'll get more out of your experience if you go on one of the guided tours mentioned above, but you'll save a little money by visiting the canyon on your own. For more information on visiting Upper Antelope Canyon, contact Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours (tel. 928/698-3384; www.navajotours.com); for information on Lower Antelope Canyon, contact Ken's Tours (tel. 928/606-2168; www.lowerantelope.com).
Just remember that if there's even the slightest chance of rain in the region, you should not venture into this canyon, which is subject to flash floods. In the past, people who have ignored bad weather predictions have been killed by such floods.
Other Area Attractions
Between April and October, you can learn about Navajo culture at Navajo Village Heritage Center (tel. 928/660-0304; www.navajovillage.com), a living-history center on the northeast corner of Ariz. 98 and Coppermine Road (on the south side of Page). Evening performances here center around programs of Native American dancing, but there are also demonstrations by weavers, silversmiths, and other artisans. Tours, which last 2 1/2 hours, cost $50 ($30 for children) and include dinner and traditional dances. Reservations are required. Although this is definitely a tourist attraction, you will come away with a better sense of Navajo culture.
If you're in the market for Native American crafts, stop by Blair's Dinnebito Trading Post, 626 N. Navajo Dr. (tel. 800/644-3008 or 928/645-3008; www.blairstradingpost.com), which has been in business for more than 60 years. The trading post has a good selection of Navajo rugs, Hopi kachinas, silver jewelry, pottery, and baskets.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.